Nowhere on Dolphins cornerback Dimitri Jontheil Pattersons birth certificate will you find well-traveled. For the epitomes of NFL journeymen such as Patterson, however, youd think they were christened with that adjective.
Pattersons played NFL games with five different teams in eight seasons and spent one of those eight on the practice squad of a sixth team. His college football career got split between Southeast Missouri State (three years) and Tuskegee (one).
On the Dolphins depth chart, Pattersons moved up and down the depth chart in training camp already, running with the ones, twos and threes.
Hes really doing a good job. Hes playing fast and decisive, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. There was one play in particular, I was on the other field for the majority of the day today but there was a play yesterday in practice that really jumped out on us. He broke on a ball. Hes really got that cat like quickness that you like to see out of a corner, and the ability to redirect, pretty good instincts, he can plant his foot and drive. Hes been having a good camp.
You acknowledge it, but you dont become complacent, Patterson said of the drills hes with the No. 1 unit. Youre not going to get comfortable. If you run with the ones, its an opportunity to show that you deserve to be with the ones. If youre running with the threes and the fours, guess what? Its an opportunity to show that you should be hired.
Thats not a certainty for Patterson. The Dolphins have 10 cornerbacks in camp. But, then, few roster spots in Pattersons career came with guarantees.
He worked his way onto Washingtons practice squad as an undrafted free agent, then got onto the roster for three games in 2005. He spent a season on Minnesotas practice squad, from which Kansas City signed him in 2007. Kansas City waived him late in the 2008 season. Philadelphia picked him up. Two seasons and his first NFL starts there and Cleveland signed him as a free agent.
Patterson said the only difference between his training camp approach those early days and now is how much he needed to watch those teammates getting more work.
I had to really, really be on top of paying attention to those who were in front of me because there was a lot I didnt know at the time, he said. I not only had to learn from what people did well, I had to learn from what people did badly. Because, when you get few reps, your margin of error is very small. You cant afford, when you do get your opportunity, to go on the field and make a mistake, as opposed to a draft pick or a guy whos been afforded a contract. I knew Id have one crack at it, maybe two cracks, if that.
His Dolphins life began as a waiver wire pickup from Cleveland in December, which jettisoned Patterson after he came back from a high ankle sprain that cost him seven games in his first year after signing a three-year free agent deal. The Browns wanted Patterson back sooner than seven weeks, but left him off the travel roster the first week he thought he was ready to return.
Patterson played the following week, Dec. 9 and received public compliments on his play by defensive coordinator Dick Jauron. The Browns waived him on Dec. 17. The Dolphins claimed him Dec. 18 and he started the final two games of the season.
Its a unique situation. You really dont have time to get too emotional, get too down, get too low or get too whatever the emotion may be, he said. I left Cleveland, that situation had nothing to do with football. It wasnt a situation to be disappointed about or frustrated. Nobody wants to be waived, nobody wants that term associated with that term.
It was kind of a whirlwind mentally just because of the traveling, trying to prepare for a game, actually playing in a game. Excited, tired, a little overwhelmed but accepted everything in front of me so its all positive emotions.